Justin Karn – Canadian Judo Paralympian – “His Hands Are His Eyes”

A recent article in the Toronto Star featured Canadian judo Paralympian Justin “The Badger”

Karn is on his way to compete in the 2012 London Paralympics for judo.  Karn and two other Canadian judoka, Tony Walby and Tim Rees, will be accompanied by veteran coach Tom Thompson to the mirror event of the 2012 London Olympics.  All of these athletes are visually impaired to some degree and the London Paralympic judo event itself is open only to visually impaired athletes.

One would think that a martial arts competition would be an impossibility with extremely visually impaired competitors. How do you know where your opponent is to apply a technique?

Both Karn and Thompson describe how judo makes this possible in the excellent article.

Judo – a mainstay of the Olympics and Paralympics

Karn describes judo as being “about balance and touch and feel and being able to determine how your opponent is positioned and where they’re most vulnerable”.   He is getting right to the heart of what makes judo perhaps one of the best grappling and martial arts for children and adults to learn when beginning their study of the martial arts. Whether it is judo’s dynamic throws or its immobilizing holds, chokes, and arm locks, a veteran judoka will rely almost completely on feeling an opponent’s movements through touch.

Judo is about ‘balance and touch’

I remember my first instructor, Chris Toule of the original Budokai Judo Club, telling us not be fooled by our eyes if our opponent tried a head or hip fake to confuse us.  He had many drills to turn up our sensitivity via touch and feel towards improving the timing of our techniques.  One of his favorite things to say was, “Okay, now try it with your eyes closed”.

What he was teaching us was to sense our opponent’s even slightest movements in our gripping hands.  With enough diligent practice this sensitivity was carried through our arms and shoulders right down into the gut.  The ability to sense an opponent’s tiniest movements can become so well trained that it almost seems like you can anticipate their next move – like you can read their mind!

The Ippon Moment

In judo the knockout score is called an Ippon.  When throwing, it means you have caught your opponent completely in the movement of the throw and put them squarely on their back. It means that despite their trying everything in their power to stop you, you have taken control of their body’s movement and made it your own.

At tournament or in the club when an Ippon happens, everyone in the whole gym feels it, for a split second two movements have become one, one fighter has tricked the other through sheer skill and taken complete control of the match.  Arms rise up in the air, people jump out of their seats, and cries of elation are heard. This is when judo becomes sublime. This is when years of dedicated practice and firm resolution have come together in a split instant and the student touches perfection.

Good Luck to Justin, Tony and Tim from your friends at Budokai Judo Club!

Written By Rick Koglin ~ Judo Teacher

About Budokai Judo Club
Based in North York and serving the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Budokai Judo Club is owned and operated by Sensei’s Rick Koglin and Ray Litvak, (Certified Judo black belts and instructors).

The goal of the club is to imbue its students (men, women, children) with the character, confidence and courage that practicing judo over time instills in its practitioners.

You can find us in the heart of North York at 1110-5 Finch Ave. West, M3J 2T2 in the North York Aikido Club/Aikido Hokuryukai. Budokai Judo Club will officially open its doors on Sunday August, 19, 2012. For more information, or to pre-register for judo classes, please contact Rick Koglin at (416) 712-6751 or e-mail us today.  You’ll be glad you did!

Budokai Judo Club is the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) answer to professional judo instruction (recreational, fitness and competitive) for people of all ages and skill levels.
We provide judo lessons to residents of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) including Toronto, North York, Downsview, Concord, Vaughan, Thornhill, Richmond Hill, Woodbridge and York Region, Ontario.